Tim Loehmann, the Cleveland Police Officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and his partner, Frank Garmback, both have storied police histories. Earlier this year, Officer Garmback was involved in an excessive force lawsuit that settled for $100,000. Officer Tim Loehmann was described by high-ranking officials on the Independence Police Department (where he previously worked) as someone who “could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal.”
Profoundly, Independence Deputy Chief Jim Polak wrote this about Loehmann: “time nor training will be able to change or correct the deficiencies.”
Too bad Cleveland’s Police Department didn’t “look at Loehmann’s personnel file” before he was hired; Tamir Rice might be alive today.
As a 20-year veteran police sergeant of the Los Angeles Police Department, I can assert that not everyone who “wants” to become a police officer “should” become a police officer. As a field training officer and supervisor in patrol, I had the responsibility of observing and evaluating probationary and tenured police officers. So, believe me when I say that I am profoundly disappointed when an obvious and documented unfit police officer is not properly “banished to the corn fields.”
In a recent interview, I was asked if I thought former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Mike Brown, would have a hard time finding another job as a police officer after his resignation from Ferguson. Of course, my response was, “No.” I have personal knowledge of errant police officers who were either fired or allowed to resign or retire in lieu of termination who have “lived to offend again.”
Much like Darren Wilson—fired from the Jennings Police Department before he was hired by the Ferguson Police—and St. Louis Police Officers Association Manager Jeff Roorda—fired by the Arnold, Missouri, Police Department before he went on to become the Police Chief in Kimmswick—Cleveland Officer Tim Loehmann was given a second chance—a chance Tamir Rice will not have.
Resignation for some police officers is the gift that keeps on giving. When a police department allows one of its officers to resign in lieu of termination, understand that there is no punishment in that designation. In many cases, bad behavior does not follow officers to their new department.
So, out-of-control, scary, have-no-business-carrying-a-gun police officers have no problem finding “a new church home.” And while I am on it, let me add that white privilege helps; because I know of no black [fired] police officers similarly graced.
Now then, let’s examine the personnel files, of “lying…distracted…and weepy” Cleveland Officer Tim Loehmann, who was reportedly such an emotional wreck while on the Independence Police Department that his superiors contacted his parents out of “concern for his well-being,” that Officer Tim Loehmann who later joined the Cleveland police department, after having been fired from Independence, “because he wanted more action”.
“More action” is police code talk for “I want to work in a black/brown community where I can mistreat, abuse, and assault.” During my early years on the LAPD, I remember hearing a few of the white, more senior training officers saying that the best way for an officer to earn promotions and fast track to the coveted positions on the department was to work a “busy division” where you could “kick butt and take names”—code talk for “black community” and use “excessive force.”
Cleveland’s Police Department, Ferguson’s Police Department and now the New York Police Department are all seemingly synonymous for “give me your wretched, willfully dishonest, abusive under the color of authority and I will arm them, condone their abuse, and cover up their bad deeds.”
Much like fired Officers Tim Loehmann, Darren Wilson and Jeff Roorda, NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo is no stranger to improper activity while on duty. In 2012, New York Citty paid a $30,000 settlement after Officer Pantaleo made “false representations” against two men who were charged and then later had the charges dismissed. Officer Pantaleo continued to offend and currently has a pending lawsuit with similar circumstances to the previous settlement. Why has it taken the killing of Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner to shine a light on these problem police officers? Who else will die before substantive changes are made within these organizations?
Unfortunately, death and a settlement are required before a police department is willing to step away from over-zealous, “I’m in fear for my safety” or “I was protecting the public,” police officers who kill.
Much like a former co-worker of mine—LAPD Officer Douglas Iverson, whom I wrote about in my autobiography. Iverson was known to “service” the black community in a way that could lead to death. The LAPD (like Ferguson and now NYPD) allowed Iverson to feed at the City trough until 1992 when Iverson shot and killed Lee Daniels, a black tow truck driver.
Enough is enough. Police departments need to stop protecting and serving their own interests and operate in a manner that communities all over the world are now demanding.
Black & Blue